Leicestershire again came close to recording an LV=CC success but a combination of solid Essex batting and the weather thwarted the bid at Chelmsford.
Jaik Mickleburgh (67, 170b) and Greg Smith (85, 173b) shared 155 for the second wicket and James Foster (41, 93b) again proved hard to shift as Essex reached 271-5 declared from 101 overs in their second innings.
County’s cause was not aided by a couple of heavy showers that wiped out nine overs of play. The second delay early in the afternoon session was particularly annoying given the team had claimed three wickets either side of lunch.
Charlie Shreck (25-7-48-2) was the pick of the attack but the home side saw out the day, so Leicestershire picked up 11 points from the fixture. Credit has to go to Essex, who fought extremely hard despite having a lengthy injury list.
County would have loved to have recorded a win before the arrival of Natwest T20 Blast but the team has picked up 34 points from their opening trio of matches and the signs are hugely encouraging.
The batsmen are in good form while Dan Redfern made 154 for the Second XI and Ramnaresh Sarwan is making good progress from a back injury – our overseas player had his first bat in the nets yesterday.
The bowlers have been performing as a unit and there is competition for places across the board. In short, an LV=CC win is surely around the corner if performances such as those seen against Kent, Glamorgan and Essex are maintained in the coming weeks.
Leicestershire needed quick wickets in the morning session but it was a largely frustrating passage of play. The stand between Mickleburgh and Smith passed 100 with a two gathered from the first ball of the day.
Mickleburgh then moved to a 119-ball 50 with his sixth four, which was cracked through point in the second over. Smith registered his half-century in the next over (95b, 7x4).
Smith edged Anthony Ireland (16-1-52-1) down to third man for four and Jigar Naik (33-8-77-0) came on to bowl the 10th over of the day – the 44th of the innings. He started with a maiden but rain was in the air and the players left the field after Shreck had completed another probing over.
It was only a sharp shower but the batsmen continued to provide hurdles upon the resumption. Smith again nicked to the vacant third man boundary and the set batsmen each picked up a four as Essex moved to the verge of wiping out the arrears.
Nathan Buck (16-2-50-1) then entered the attack and a really good ball caused Smith problems. Mickleburgh nudged Naik for three as Essex moved into the lead as well as recording the 150 stand. A fine stroke through mid-wicket off Naik brought Smith four more but County gave themselves a chance by taking two quick wickets.
Buck bowled Mickleburgh with Essex leading by six and was unfortunate not to pick up further success as Mark Pettini edged through the cordon. A third wicket did come before lunch as Smith looked for a single, Pettini sent him back, and the batsman was short of his ground as Josh Cobb threw to Ned Eckersley.
The hosts had slipped to 170-3 and that was the lunchtime score with Essex leading by just 18 at that stage. Leicestershire picked up where they left off in the afternoon session as Pettini (13, 41b) edged Ireland to Naik at slip but another shower then arrived.
Foster has often been a thorn in Leicestershire’s side and that again proved to be the case. The captain hit a trio of fours when play got back underway, including a powerful leg-side stroke off Naik, while Foakes (17, 58b) was generally watchful.
The duo took their side up to the new ball but Shreck ended Foakes’ resistance with the very first ball of it. The impressive seamer found the edge and Eckersley completed the dismissal.
There were still 39.5 overs remaining at this point, and a wicket or two would have made things interesting. Kishen Velani had other ideas; he struck his second ball back past Shreck to the ropes. Buck took up the attack alongside Shreck, who saw a rare boundary come off him as Foster clipped away.
Tea came with Essex on 228-5 with 31 overs remaining in the day. Velani (21*, 67b) just avoided a fielder with the first ball of the final session, and the ball raced away to add to Ireland’s disappointment.
The Essex duo continued to show admirable patience against Rob Taylor (11-1-29-0) and Naik and also scored when the chance presented itself. Foster drove two consecutive fours off Naik in the 99th over, the second of which registered the 50 partnership. Velani then cut the off-spinner away for four in his next over and the players shook hands at the end of it.
Leicestershire’s focus now switches to the NatWest T20 Blast as we host Derbyshire on Friday, May 16. Hampshire are our next LV=CC opponents at Grace Road two days later.